Reduced metrics fail to include data on water quality, habitats and bird populations, as campaigners accuse Defra of hiding the true state of nature
Biodiversity indicators are an essential part of monitoring the health of nature in England, however, this year the UK government are publishing a fraction of the usual 24 indicators, leading to concern that the current state of nature is not being accurately reported.
Biodiversity indicators are an essential means of monitoring and managing threats to the natural world, such as climate change and extreme weather. Each year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) publish data on 24 indicators to give an overview of the health of all England’s species of animals and plants, and the natural systems that support them.
Last year, the department announced there would be a pause on reporting on all biodiversity indicators in 2022 to allow them to review and improve the metrics, and bring them in line with the UN’s targets.
As reported in New Scientist, environmental campaigner Chris Packham accused Defra of ‘cowardice’, while Wild Justice say they are ‘failing to tackle wildlife loss’. Consequently, Defra will publish seven indicators for 2022, including Global Diversity Impacts, Air Pollution, Protected Areas, Status of Priority Species, Butterflies, Pollinating Insects and Biodiversity Expenditure.
“All data which would have been published in 2022 will be available next year, meaning there will be no missing data and our progress can be fully scrutinised.”
Defra say these metrics were chosen based on data availability, user needs and timeliness, and that, “All data which would have been published in 2022 will be available next year, meaning there will be no missing data and our progress on protecting and enhancing the natural environment can be fully scrutinised.”
Indicators have not been amended since 2012, and the current review will take into account the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which will set out targets for halting the reduction in biodiversity worldwide by 2030. These will be negotiated at the Convention of Biological Diversity in December, says Defra.
The reduced metrics fail to include data on water quality, habitats and bird populations, which campaigners believe will show species and habitats are in decline.
“It’s worrying that key data on how species are faring won’t be on record this year, especially when nature is really suffering from the impacts of drought and extreme weather, says Elliot Chapman Jones, Head of Public Affairs at The Wildlife Trust. “It is crucial to have consistent recording about the state of our natural world to help wildlife and habitats recover.
“Defra has suggested the decision to publish only a handful of biodiversity indicators this year is due to administrative changes. We urge them to clear up this admin work sharply because, with 15% of species in the UK threatened with extinction, there really isn’t any time to lose.”
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